China is using big data to track people with coronavirus

First electron microscopic images of the novel coronavirus in China [CDC.gov, public domain, 1/24/2020]

“In this day and age, you can trace everyone’s movements with big data,” Li Lanjuan, an adviser to the National Health Commission, said in an interview with state television.

Government officials in China are using big data to track the location and movement of people who are known to be infected with the Wuhan coronavirus, officially known as Novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV.

The Wall Street Journal reports on the Chinese government’s “unprecedented effort to track the fast-spreading virus, which has infected more than 20,000 people and killed at least 425 around the world” as of today:

China has built a formidable digital-surveillance system in recent years, linking facial recognition, security cameras and social-media monitoring with regular human surveillance. The aim is to keep tabs on its 1.4 billion citizens, chiefly to identify and prevent threats to social order and Communist Party control.

The country’s state-run media has celebrated the application of the authorities’ big-data tracking abilities in the campaign to control the disease outbreak, touting it as an example of the social benefits of technology.

Shizhu county in Chongqing, in southwestern China, said it used unspecified data to track more than 5,500 people arriving for the Lunar New Year holiday from Hubei province. Roughly half were placed under home quarantine, according to a report in the Communist Party-run Chongqing Daily newspaper.

In Zhejiang province, not far from Nanjing, authorities dealing with one patient who denied having contact with anyone in Wuhan were able to use data analysis to show he had interacted with three others from the city, China Central Television reported last week.

READ MORE [paywall]
China Marshals the Power of Its Surveillance State in Fight Against Coronavirus [ Liza Lin Feb. 4, 2020 10:53 am ET ]